It’s no secret that Nintendo holds a monopoly on many of our childhoods. Developer Game Freak is a huge contributor to that with their ever-popular Pokémon franchise. However, as big as Pokémon is now, few games have had an impact on fans much like the original three versions; Pokémon Red, Pokémon Blue, and Pokémon Yellow. The first two were remade back in 2004 with Pokémon Fire Red and Leaf Green, but for some reason, we never saw a remake of the popular third installment that brought in new characters and game features. That is, until now.
Gotta Catch Em All, Again
For those who have played the original Pokémon Yellow, it’s basically the same exact game with a few new features and a graphical upgrade. If you came in expecting a completely new experience, then I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you; you’re going to be severely disappointed. However, for fans looking for something that’s basically a loving tribute to the original then you might enjoy the game as much as I did.
As stated previously, this is one of the areas of the game that is about 99% the exact same as the original. You start off as a new trainer in Pallet Town ready to set out on your Pokémon adventure. Any veteran of the other games knows this means you’re about to go around the region of Kanto and collect the eight gym badges you need in order to take on the Pokémon League.
Also, just like in the original, along the way you come across Team Rocket, the villains of the game. Their goal is to make it rich and take over the world using Pokémon and, of course, your goal is to stop them from doing that. What’s great about them adapting Pokémon Yellow instead of the first two, is that they included Jesse and James from the anime. This makes a nice break from fighting the faceless Rocket grunts you’d otherwise be battling against.
Being that the game is at its core an RPG, there are many colorful characters you encounter along the way. I won’t be listing them all here in detail since there’s so many of them, but I will cover the important ones.
You: The star of the show! What’s great is that while the customization isn’t as in-depth as it has been in the last few generations, you can still choose your gender and skin color.
Your Rival: What was a nice surprise was that in this game your rival isn’t a total jerk. Sure, he still annoyingly wants to battle you at the worst times, but he doesn’t insult you like he did in the original. Also, in this version, your rival is not related to Professor Oak. I always thought it was kind of cheap that your rival got to choose whatever Pokémon he wanted and you were left with Pikachu as an afterthought.
Professor Oak: Also known as the Pokémon Professor, Oak is the one tasked with giving you your very first Pokémon. Depending on which version of the game you bought (Pikachu or Eevee) determines which Pokémon becomes your starter.
The Kanto Gym Leaders: There are eight different gyms to challenge across Kanto and each of them has a leader you must battle. If you defeat them then you get their badge, proving your victory over them.
The Elite Four: Once you have all of your badges, it’s time to take on the Pokémon League made up of the Elite Four. These four are the final goal of the game and will test what you’ve learned during your journey.
Blue/Green/Red: Blue takes on the role of Oak’s grandson in this game much like he did in the original. He serves more of as a guide and isn’t as much of a jerk as he was in the original. Green and Red are characters you meet after you’ve beaten the game and have reached certain conditions. Green comes from the original Pokémon Manga and this marks her first appearance in the games! Red is the protagonist from the original three Pokémon games. He is the final challenge of the game.
This is where the game begins to vary from the original the most. First and foremost, you do not battle Pokémon in order to capture except for the four legendary Pokémon. Instead, you must throw Pokéballs at wild Pokémon until you’ve captured them. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, it’s taken directly from the mobile game Pokémon Go. I was really skeptical about this feature when I first saw it was going to be a big part of the game. However, it actually works surprisingly well. I wouldn’t like to see it implemented into the main series, but it wasn’t as awful as I thought it was going to be. I will say, however, that playing on the TV was more of a hassle while trying to throw the Pokéball. The Nintendo Switch just could not read my movements half of the time, and I found playing in handheld mode while trying to capture Pokémon was the ideal way to go since all you had to do was aim the Switch like a camera and press a button.
Once you initiate a Pokémon, you can try to catch it with the various Pokéballs, feed it berries to make capturing it easier (just like in Pokémon Go), or flee. Catching Pokémon becomes a mini-game itself as you have to hit the Pokémon dead in the center with the Pokéball and you’re graded on how well you did so. You can get no reaction for getting out of the ring, and then a nice, great, or excellent rating depending on how well you did. Depending on how well you did plays into whether or not the Pokémon will stay in the Pokéball.
While walking around the map you’ll find wild Pokémon running about, usually near grass patches or in the water. This is probably one of my favorite features of this game. In the old Pokémon games, you would randomly encounter Pokémon while walking through tall grass, making your way through caves, or surfing on the water. After a while, this could get far too repetitive and frustrating especially when searching for rarer Pokémon that have a small encounter rate. For instance, if you wanted a Clefairy in Mt. Moon then you had to encounter a LOT of Zubats first. Also, some Pokémon, as mentioned above, are rare in the wild. In order to make some of them spawn easier, you have to get your catch rate up, and you do that by catching similar Pokémon multiple times in a row. The higher the rate, the more of a chance for rare Pokémon to spawn.
What’s also nice about this game is that HMs are gone. HM stands for Hidden Machine, and they used to be moves in Pokémon games that could be used in the game world to either travel across obstacles or break them down. It used to be a hassle because once an HM move was taught to a Pokémon they couldn’t forget them. This was problematic because each Pokémon can only learn four moves, therefore people used to have HM slaves which were Pokémon that learned the HM moves and were only used for that reason. That being said, Pokémon Let’s Go does away with that and instead teaches the original HM moves to your starter Pokémon in a unique way. Instead of them being actual moves, there more like techniques that can be used from the unique interaction tab made for your starter Pokémon.
Speaking of the interaction tab, you can pet your starter and feed it berries. While it’s a cute function, that’s about where it ends. There really wasn’t any reason to do it, and it felt like more of an afterthought than anything else. One cute feature, that wasn’t explained in the game, is that you can rub your starter’s hair in this tab and it will change depending on how you pet it. Some of these are hard to pull off and it’s never really explained anywhere. I think it was meant as more of an Easter egg than anything else. Another cute function was that, on occasion, you would receive outfits for you and your starter that allowed you to change your respective looks. An accessory store in Celadon city also allows you to further customize your starter’s appearance.
Now at this point, some of you may be getting worried, just like I was, about the lack of talk about battles. Don’t worry, Pokémon battles are still in this game and they’re just like you remember them. As mentioned earlier. you can’t battle wild Pokémon, except for the legendary Pokémon. This means when you encounter Zapdos, Articuno, Moltres, or Mewtwo you will have to get their HP down to zero before things shift over into a capture mini-game. However, these are not the only battles in the game.
Just like before, there are plenty of trainers to challenge to a Pokémon battle, including the gym leaders. They function just as they do in other games, and the goal is to get the opposing Pokémon’s HP to zero. The game’s Pokémon have been updated to reflect their current types which means that Pokémon types that weren’t in the original, like dark or fairy, are now in this one. This makes gameplay a lot more interesting as you have to remember what types defeat others and gym leaders that may have been easier to beat before are now harder.
To counteract this, your starter can learn new moves that it previously couldn’t. In fact, the moves are specific to this game and can be learned at any time by visiting the ringleader guy that shows up at certain Pokémon centers. I will say, Eevee gets significantly more moves than Pikachu does. Pikachu can learn three moves; one electric, one water, and one flying. Eevee, on the other hand, can learn up to eight moves; one for each evolution it can potentially become. These moves, whether for Pikachu or Eevee, makes the game ridiculously easier. It’s no secret that your started determines the difficulty of your journey as Brock is a rock-type gym leader, and Rock-type Pokémon are only weak against water, fighting, grass, steel, and ground types. This doesn’t seem so bad until you realize that the only Pokémon that can learn these sorts of moves, and be caught this early in the game, are hard to come by. However, using Eevee’s water move made his gym a breeze, and every gym after that was easy after more and more moves became available.
The final feature that really differs from the original is the inclusion of the GO Park Complex. This is placed directly behind the Safari Zone and essentially takes its place. It used to be that the Safari Zone was a place to catch rare Pokémon. Instead, it’s now a place to transfer some of the Pokémon you’ve caught in Pokémon GO. This only includes the non-legendary and non-special Pokémon (such as Pikachus with hats) which is a bit of a bummer. The only plus side is that it’s the easiest way to fill up your Pokédex and to get the Alolan versions of the Kanto Pokémon in the game. Otherwise, you have to trade Kanto versions for Alolan versions with various trainers found in Pokécenters found throughout the map. It’s not so bad when they want a Meowth for a Meowth, but it becomes frustrating when they want the evolved forms like Raichu or Marowak that take time or special circumstances to evolve.
This is another one of my favorite aspects of this game. Pokémon has some of the most iconic music from any video game series I’ve ever played, and the Champion Battle Theme is probably one of my favorite video game songs. The Pokémon Let’s Go games have a wonderfully remixed soundtrack of the original included. A lot of care and love was put into keeping the soundtrack close to the original while accenting it in meaningful ways.
This was another strong aspect of the game for me. The map is almost identical to the original game, even down to most of the item locations.
The main theme of this game seemed to take the best of the past Pokémon games an fuse it with the best of modern Pokémon games. A lot of what was already there was left untouched, and instead of being changed they are highlighted with more details. Something I absolutely loved is that when you visit most of the gyms, there’s an audience watching from the sidelines. This was something that added more immersion to the game because in the anime Pokémon battles are seen in the same vein as football or basketball. People not only partook in battles, but they also enjoyed watching them as well.
These little details could be found throughout the game, and it really helped to make the world seem more alive. The colors are vibrant and the visuals are stunning on Nintendo’s latest system. What I really loved was that there was no lag that could be found like what plagued Pokémon Sun and Moon. Everything was smooth and polished just like you’d expect out of a Pokémon game.
If you’re looking for something new and exciting then Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee are most likely not the games for you. There’s not a lot that’s different from the original, and each version is a mirror version of the other aside from a few different moves and version specific Pokémon. However, I don’t think the goal was to make something new, which is why they chose to go back to Kanto instead of heading to a new location. It was a nice tribute to a game many fans hold near and dear to their hearts. It reminded me of all that was good in my childhood. Suddenly, I was ten years old again, sitting in my room, snacking on Lunchables and catching Pokémon. Even though I had experienced it before, I was eager to see each event now transitioned into the newer graphics and functions. It wasn’t a long journey, but it was a meaningful one.
Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee is exclusively available on the Nintendo Switch!